Focus your Process Improvement Efforts

Focus your Process Improvement Efforts

May 15, 2014 7:31 pm 2 comments

In a recent blog, I discussed launching process efforts on areas that matter (September 12, 2013 – Launch process efforts based on areas that matter). The key is to focus on initiatives that support the strategy and/or are critical to the customer. These initiatives tend to be driven by management, who is (should be) concerned about the longer-term direction of the organisation.

What typically happens in organisations is that process improvement efforts are both top down (driven by management based on strategy) and bottom up (driven by teams or departments based on pain points). Let’s look at how you could manage each of these.

Top down initiatives tend to be launched as managed projects. In another blog, I discussed how to set-up your process improvement efforts (February 20, 2014 – Set your process improvement efforts up for success). These management and initiative driven projects would follow the steps outlined in that post.

What happens with the bottom-up process improvement efforts? How do these efforts get managed?

Process Teams – If there are process improvement teams in place that are managing the process, continuous improvement efforts are built into how they manage the process. Ideas should be funnelled to the team, who would incorporate them into the process improvement approval process that has been established.

Departmental Initiatives – Often a department will initiate an effort to improve a process in their area. This could be initiated by individuals or managers in the department. If the process effort remains only in their area, the risk (and reality) is that they will sub-optimise the overall process: improve what they touch, but break other parts that impact other departments, leading to an end-to-end process that performs no better or maybe worse than before the department effort.

How do you address this situation?

o All improvement efforts need to be screened by a Process Office or Process Owner; if these are not in place, use the Corporate Office (CEO, COO) as the filter. The purpose is to prioritise all the efforts to focus on those that matter. This needs to be a fast (responsive) step, not tied up in bureaucracy.

o All departments who have a role in a process need to be part of the improvement effort. This turns department efforts into cross functional projects. Again, responsiveness (speed) is an imperative, so develop a “process” on how to approach and manage these efforts.

The bottom line is that you need to put in place a mechanism to quickly screen department level process improvement ideas. You want these ideas to be brought forward and acted on to engage many parts of the organisation in process improvement. There is a balance:

1. You need to prioritise and align these ideas so you are focused on areas that matter (strategy driven or customer focused);

2. You need to act quickly so you keep people engaged and enthused about providing ideas. If you ask for ideas, but don’t act, people will stop providing them.

At Ascent Management, we believe there are many compelling reasons for a process-based approach to improving business performance. Learn more about how our approach can help you identify the pathway to improving business by taking our two FREE five minute Process Improvement or Process Based Management quick assessments.

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